Baby Bison and the Danger of “Misplaced Concern”

As the emotional trumps the rational, people increasingly act on sentiment and subjective desires, often making bad situations even worse.

On May 9th at Yellowstone National Park, a bison calf was euthanized. The reason? A tourist, concerned about the welfare of the calf in the cold temperatures, had put it in her SUV. The calf was later rejected by its mother after repeated attempts to return it to the herd.

“Rob Heusevelet, another park visitor, said he warned the tourists they didn’t need to ‘rescue’ the calf”, reported The Telegraph. “They didn’t care. They sincerely thought they were doing a service and helping that calf by trying to save it from the cold.”

The article went on to explain that a “frustrated park spokesman said its death was caused by the ‘misplaced concern’ of the tourists.”

What is fascinating about this story is that our culture is awash in folks who do things because of “misplaced concern”. And while the results are not usually as dramatic as the rejection of a calf by a bison herd, they sometimes are deeply destructive, even if the destruction and damage are not immediately obvious.

Take for example the recent rush to accept every aspect of the LGBT movement. The elephant in the room, acknowledged by few, is the deep brokenness suffered by these individuals: rejection, abuse, bullying, neglect, confusion. Homosexuality and transgenderism do not bring peace or wholeness; instead, they damage and even destroy hearts and lives. It is all there in their stories for those who have ears to hear and yet rather than help bring them to a place of healing and wholeness our culture heaps upon them the “misplaced concern” of embracing the very acts and relationships that prevent their wounds from healing.

There is no other way to explain the broad acceptance of LGBT; the emotional appeal is paramount: “We want them to have the same things straight folks have.” The focus is always completely on emotions and desires, rather than on objective truths about human nature and relationships. Thus, unfortunately, the emotional trumps the rational. Think of the arguments for allowing transvestites or self-described transgendered “women” in women’s bathrooms: “We just want them to be comfortable” or some such thing. Meanwhile complete disregard has been given to the safety of the women and girls across the country. And woe to anyone considering going to Mississippi or North Carolina – those backwater swamps were men and women are only allowed to use the bathroom that coincides with their birth certificate. At this rate, it makes one wonder how long gender will remain on birth certificates.

Our “misplaced concern”, based in reactionary sentimentality and fueled by subjective emotions, doesn’t end there. It taints so many areas of our public and private lives. So, we are told that it is unfair and bigoted that the Catholic Church does not ordain women to the priesthood, or that many people believe that abortion is the taking of an innocent life. What about “women’s rights”? Euthanasia is embraced or supported by many because they feel it is unfair that others “suffer”—even if that suffering, more and more, is defined in very subjective and emotional ways. Many students at colleges and universities act as if any exposure to ideas that don’t align with their thinking—or, better, their feelings—must be removed, banned, and even denounced.

A Denver Post article about the incident in Yellowstone Park quotes Jennifer Barfield, a researcher at Colorado State University who has been involved in releasing bison into the wild. “There are so many people out there who love wildlife and want to do the best,” said CSU’s Barfield. “But when you don’t understand the species or the social dynamics that occur in a herd situation, people even when they have the best intentions can do irreversible damage — and that’s what happened here, essentially.”

Increasingly, more and more people do not understand what it means to be human, or the dynamics of family life, community, and authentic love. Sadly, like the concerned tourist who truly wanted to help that calf, they respond without understanding the situation and the nature of those involved, and so their shortsighted “care” doesn’t do what it is intended to do.

Humans are created with the capacity for compassion and love, but they also have the capacity to allow their emotions to supersede and even sabotage their reason. We need to ask ourselves: what kind of care and concern are we really offering? Perhaps human nature doesn’t provide obvious warnings as when we tamper with the nature of bison. Or does it? Perhaps there is wisdom in looking beyond the superficial to the deeper nature. The signs are there if we have the eyes to see. Only then can our assistance do more good than harm.


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About Carrie Gress, Ph.D. 49 Articles
Carrie Gress has a doctorate in philosophy from the Catholic University of America and was the Rome Bureau Chief of Zenit's English Edition. She is the author of Nudging Conversions, Ultimate Makeover, and The Marian Option, and co-author with George Weigel of City of Saints. A mother of four, she and her family live in Virginia. Visit her online at CarrieGress.com.